Category Archives: Rural Communities

Sitting On the Bus…

This fall, the majority of my blog posts were written on the Haymaker school bus traveling to Cross Country meets. Riding the bus as an adult provides an interesting perspective. You learn more than just to appreciate the beautiful Nebraska countryside.

In addition to being on the coaching roster, two of my three girls also ride the bus. My oldest as a varsity runner and my youngest as a 6th grade student manager with big dreams for competing next year. In the height of the season, when both the junior high and high school athletes competed, there was hardly an open seat on the bus.

The following provides a short list of things that float around in my mind while sitting on the bus.

1. The bus driver is the team’s unsung hero. Not only does he hold the welfare of our kids in his hands — his cheerful, caring nature sets the stage for a good beginning and ending to race day.

2. The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies a positive culture of respect. When the coaches set the standards high, the kids deliver. Anything less is unacceptable. The medals go to the fastest finishes during the race, but the concept of team is what leads to the win — both on and off the course. True character shines through on the bus just as much as during the race. A positive culture produces a higher level of character at the end of the season than existed at the beginning of the season.

3. Teammanship provides a coach’s greatest prize. It is truly beautiful when athletes compete with heart, unselfishly taking care of the team and raising the bar for those around them. The drama meter on the bus should always be low signifying a heathy team experience with good athlete leadership.

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Haymaker Cross Country qualified both varsity teams for state yesterday. The bus ride home last night will be my second favorite bus ride of the season as I’m really looking forward to taking a bus load of awesome runners to the Nebraska state meet next Friday 🙂

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Rural Communities

Life is a Series of Callings…

anneagxc.jpgI believe that life is a series of callings.  Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey.  I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics.  Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.

I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska.  I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette.  A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.

I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease.  The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is.  God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool.  Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.

This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team.  Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time.  I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.

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Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.

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There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey.  You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making.  Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice.  They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.

The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.  Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win.  I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders.  The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.

The calling of a coach is a special one.  It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future.  When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General, Rural Communities

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

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The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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10 Qualities of a Good Teammate…

lakekarynswimshirt.jpgIn preparation for a swim team meeting today, my favorite blonde cowgirl and I brainstormed and put together 10 Qualities of a Good Teammate.  None of these qualities are linked directly with natural athletic talent, however, all of them directly determine an athlete’s success.  Building these skills is not easy; however their importance extends far beyond the athletic field and into the game of life. 

  1. Heart: To be a good teammate, you must have enough faith to trust both in your abilities as well as every other team member’s.
  2. Friendship: To be a good teammate, you must extend friendship and acceptance toward all members. This includes recognizing that no one is perfect and being able to forgive in order to better both yourself and the team.
  3. Work Ethic: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to work hard – to push yourself to the point of exhaustion – in order to achieve new levels of strength and ability.
  4. Leadership: To be a good teammate, you must show a positive attitude and look outside of yourself in order to support and mentor others.
  5. Integrity: To be a good teammate, you must be truthful in your thoughts, words, and actions.
  6. Passion: To be a good teammate, you must give everything that you have in every moment of competition and training with a strong positive energy that comes from the heart.
  7. Kindness: To be a good teammate, you must always be both humble and kind. Learning to support others and help them to achieve greatness provides the basis for both personal and team success.
  8. Positive Culture: To be a good teammate, you must believe in and share the power of positivity – this occurs by encouraging others and inspiring greatness in all those around you.
  9. Competitive Nature: To be a good teammate, you must be willing to live in the moment of the race and fight for victory – not just for yourself but for those who proudly share the same uniform.
  10. Leave it all on the deck: To be a good teammate, you must leave all negative emotions and drama outside of the pool so that you can bond with your teammates and work together to build something greater than yourself.

One of my swimmers reminded me this week that “Perseverance = Stubborness with a Purpose” — Imagine how awesome our world would be if everyone persevered on the journey of being a good teammate!

 

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Haymaker Swimming…

I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4.  My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life.  In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993.  I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.

Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3.  At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease.  The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.

Looking for a "high 5" at the beginning of the meet...

Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…

Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16.  Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people.  It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect.  The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil

What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow.  I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.

Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can.  I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.

  • Every practice is a challenge to be met.
  • Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
  • Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.

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Going to Grass, An Aggie in Nebraska, Summer weather on the prairie, Swim Team!

About ten years ago, our farm purchased about 600 acres of grass pasture south and west of the feed yard.  We use this grass pasture to graze lighter weight animals in the summer months as well as to harvest prairie hay to feed during the winter months.  After a cold and wet spring, the grass has finally grown enough to start grazing so we spent last Thursday going to grass with 134 fall calves.

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While I truly enjoying caring for cattle in a feed yard, I also love to utilize the unique resources on our pasture ground to grow calves on grass.  These animals will spend the summer season grazing and then will head back to the feed yard when Mother Nature begins to shut down for the year.  The animals typically weigh 600# when they go to grass and hopefully will weigh about 750# when they come home in August.

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In addition to going to grass, the Feed Yard Foodie family welcomed Emily, a graduate student at Texas A & M University, this week on the farm.  Emily hosted Megan and I when we traveled down to Aggieland last fall, and will spend three weeks in Nebraska with us this summer.  She arrived on the 16th and we spent the week learning to read bunks, shipping cattle, processing calves, and then taking these fall calves to grassEmily took most of the pictures included in this post as I am trying to inspire her to take up blogging during her remaining two years in the ruminant nutrition department at Texas A & M.

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Emily thinks that her sweatshirt is her best friend in Nebraska, and we are all hoping that she brought some of the Texas warmth with her 🙂  While the prolific moisture received in April and May helped to turn the grass green, the cold temperatures that accompanied it made the start of our growing season tardy according to the calendar.  My favorite farmer is antsy for a few heat units and drying days so that seeds will germinate and his alfalfa will grow.

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I am hoping to get Emily to write a “guest blog post” or two over the next couple of weeks — giving a glimpse into the Feed Yard Foodie farm from a different perspective.  We are laughing that she is very brave to join the general mayhem at our house which is likely to be more challenging than working at the feed yard…

On the home front over the past week, the girls finished up the spring track and soccer seasons.  Ashley Grace’s 4 X 800 relay team competed in the Nebraska State High School Championships, Megan garnered 3rd place finishes in Pole Vault and the 4 X 100 relay at the Nebraska State Junior High Championships, and Karyn earned gold medals in the 400 and 800 at a couple of local track meets as well as finishing up her spring soccer season.

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After 12 years, I hung up my soccer coaching hat last weekend.  Today, I put on my swim team coaching hat to kick off the start of the swim team season. Emily seems to be game to do anything as long as I don’t ask her to jump in the pool when it is 50 degrees outside…

The entire Haymaker Swim Team is hopeful that each of you will send warm weather out to the prairie as they have a really mean coach who makes them swim regardless of the temperature!

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Heading For the Hills…

My favorite blondes did not have school last Monday so I had company as I headed north to get feeder cattle near Halsey, Nebraska.  My girls spent many years traversing across Nebraska visiting ranches and getting cattle before they were old enough to be in school.  With my “baby” being a 5th grader, I have made many treks alone since those days.

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The drive from Cozad up to Halsey is a beautiful one full of wildlife and picturesque scenery.  I know that wherever their lives take them, my girls will take those memories of quiet beauty with them.  This vast land where cattle and wildlife greatly outnumber people brings a sense of peace that refills my cup.

As I drive around my farm and then head north to the Sandhills, I always wonder why our urban countrymen worry so much about sustainability.  The healthy ecosystem balance found in out-state Nebraska is readily visible to any passerby, and the farmers and ranchers that tend to the land do so with a blend of natural passion and stubborn pride.

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I think that perhaps many urban folks would feel better about where their beef comes from if they spent a day driving around rural Nebraska.  It might be hard to find the farmer/rancher in all the vastness of the countryside, but his/her hard work and dedication is apparent from the car window view.  If you happen to come across the human caregiver, his/her quiet manner and aloofness will give testimony to the fact that caring for the land is a solitary job.

The trip from Cozad to Halsey takes about 2 hours, and is full of deer, turkey, grouse, ducks, hawks and an occasional eagle in addition to the bovine population.  They all live in harmony with a bit of human help under the influence of Mother Nature.  Just as cattle are known as the great recyclers turning inedible plant products into vitamin rich (and tasty) edible protein, the people that inhabit my beloved adopted countryside share the same dedication to stewardship — wasting little and carefully managing the natural resources found on the land.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

Those of us that make rural America home are a small and unique group. Our pride in country is evident.  Our dedication to community shines brightly.  Our responsibility to stewardship drives a life filled with both challenge and fullfillment.

With each day that passes, I am coming to realize that now (more than ever) we need our urban counterparts to take the time to learn about our lives prior to judging the validity and sustainability of both our daily work and our legacy. Beef production is much more than the steak that creates a great tasting eating experience.  It takes care of the land and fuels rural economies, while its farmers bring a steadfast patriotism and a dedicated work ethic that provides a necessary pillar for our country.

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Perhaps it is time to head for the hills to learn about “Where your beef comes from”!  You might be surprised at what you find 🙂

 

 

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The Great Barn Quilt…

Business took me to Pender, Nebraska late this summer for a meeting.  I drove in the night before and arrived before sunset, so I put on my sneakers and went for a run around town.  Pender greeted me with a gorgeous display of “Barn Quilts”, and I left town the next afternoon enamored with the idea of a community wide Barn Quilt project.

Not long after my trip, I learned that my home county planned to participate in a Barn Quilt tour.  I quickly signed my favorite blonde cowgirl and her grandma up for a “how to” class.  Megan has loved to draw and paint patterns of shapes since she was old enough to hold a pen.

I believe in empowering my kids — coming up with projects that I know will fit their personalities — and then letting them fly.  No matter what the project, their work often leaves me in awe.

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We hung Megan’s first barn quilt at the feed yard on Saturday.  It is an 8′ X 8′ sign easily seen from HWY 30.  Anyone that knows Meg will see her personality in the sign, and I am confident that it will bring smiles to the faces of many travelers.

Apart from consulting with her engineer Daddy on the quilt layout (geometry) and spacing, Megan completed the project on her own.  I know that I am a biased mom, but the sign is just AWESOME!  I am looking forward to Barn Quilt #2 which is currently in the making and will hang on the shop/barn behind my house, and Barn Quilt #3 which will adorn our farm office building in downtown Cozad.

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I hope that Megan’s signs will be an inspiration to others in my community to participate.

  • How wonderful would it be to have each business in downtown Cozad hang a barn quilt in their window?
  • How beautiful would it be for homeowners all around town to place them in their front yards?
  • How magical would it be for groups of young people in Cozad to make signs for their neighbors and those that are unable to make their own?
  • How awesome would it be for area farmers to hang large barn quilts on their barns and shop buildings all through the countryside to showcase pride in our heritage!

For more information on making a Barn Quilt, please contact the Cozad Chamber of Commerce or visit with Julie Geiger at the Prairie Point Junction quilt store in downtown Cozad.

What an inspirational way to showcase rural America!

 

 

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